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News/Business. Chris Hansen, Hoda Kotb, Josh Mankiewicz. (2012) The death of a former radio DJ takes five years and two trials to solve. (CC) (Stereo)

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TOPIC FREQUENCY

Steven B. 14, Harvey Morrow 12, California 6, Montana 5, Us 5, Harvey 4, Ken Clark 4, Green Giant 4, Steven B. Williams 4, Debby 4, Hawaii 3, Catalina Island 3, L.a. 3, Doug Johnson 3, Steven Bailey Williams 3, Belize 2, Sylvia 2, Ho Ho Ho Green Giant 2, Greg 2, Southern California 2,
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  NBC    Dateline NBC    News/Business. Chris Hansen, Hoda Kotb, Josh Mankiewicz.   
   (2012) The death of a former radio DJ takes five years and...  

    October 11, 2012
    10:00 - 11:00pm PDT  

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i had a huge crush on him. >> he had this amazing voice. >> very gregarious. very charismatic. the passion that he had for people came through. >> he was the guy the whole town woke up to, morning dj steven. >> he was so funny and had such a great love of music. >> he is lovable, everybody loves steven b. >> but soon, it was fatally clear that not everybody did. >> they came up on a body floating in the water.
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>> shot him one time in the back of the head. >> i felt like i was in some made-for-tv movie, like this can't be happening. >> what did happen? >> tonight, the hunt is on. a gleaming yacht. >> i thought why did you get on that boat? >> a scheming businessman and a missing fortune. >> you are a multimillionaire and you are don't have any money? >> from high seas adventure to heart-stopping murder. >> i don't think i will ever get another case quite like this. >> who killed the radio star? welcome to "dateline," everyone, i'm lester holt. he was one of the lucky ones who found fame and fortune, a deejay with a golden voice on the radio and a golden touch in life. then, he vanished, in a mystery that stretched from the coast of california to a quiet town in montana. and the clue to it all, you might never guess, wrapped in a napkin, tucked in a cabinet, hidden in a library. but would anyone find it? here's keith morrison. >> today's tuesday. and here's what happened on this day in history. >> reporter: down below the surface of the pacific ocean, on
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the far side of california's catalina island, is a silent current. strange, how it flows up to the swelling coastline of santa barbara, then just before the open sea, turns back, to glide again past this storied island, when one sunny day in may 2006, someone in it. >> i'd saying i would rather be lucky than good. >> reporter: ken clark is a detective with the l.a. sheriff's department. been at it a long time, as has his partner, robert martin dale, more than 50 years between them, but nothing like the case that literally floated to them on a lonely reach of ocean out by catalina. would never have had the case at all except -- >> we were lucky that we had some boaters leaving newport beach going to from catalina island, came upon the body in
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the water. >> just happened to that see it? >> happened to see it. >> a big ocean out there? >> absolutely. >> the chances of it being seen were a needle in a haystack? >> very slim. >> the sailors spotted a flock of seagulls perched above the body. it looked like it had been in the water for a very long time. >> it was in extreme decomposition phase. >> barnacles had attached itself. >> barnacles already? >> yes. >> it was labeled a john doe and taken to the l.a. coroner's office. >> initially, it was believed to be a drowning victim. >> who was he? identifying the john doe posed to be a huge challenge. >> he could say it was a human being. that was it. >> there was one odd thing. the medical examiner pointed to the man's left hand. three fingers were missing and
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clearly had been, said the examiner, for years. >> when the victim was young, he had an accident where heself had an accident where he severed fingers on his left hand. >> which at least offered a slim chance of getting an i.d. >> we were hoping someone were to call and say my friend was missing, tell us something about him. >> and then another piece of luck. someone did call, looking for a friend he hadn't seen in weeks, a friend who had lost three fingers in a junior high school wood shop accident. and just like that, john doe had a name and a whole remarkable life. >> our victim we identified as steven bailey williams. >> reporter: steven bailey williams, better known to his friends, family and fans as steven b. >> all hit 96 kpke friday morning with the birds and the bees. >> reporter: a deejay with a distinctive voice and personal that had made him famous in the 1980s as part of the hit denver-based radio show "steven b. and the hawk." >> step over here and say a few words to the radio people around
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the country. >> i think we can keep this short and simple. get a real job. >> he was really at his professional zenith in denver. >> reporter: they were friends for more than 30 years. >> they were the guys that pioneered two-man morning radio. they were funny. they were great writers. they were great comedians. >> been here at kpke about 100 years? >> it was 18 -- who knows when you're having a good time? >> so true. >> lovable, everybody loves steven b. >> reporter: young silvia noland had a big crush on steven b. when they worked at a hawaii radio station in the early days. she worked up her nerve. >> i went in and asked steven b. if he would be my date to the beach boys concert. and he turned me down. and i was just like devastated, you know? and so i was sitting in my little sales cubicle -- >> reporter: what's the matter with me? >> the general manager walks in, and he goes, i think you need to know something. and i said, what? and he goes, well, if you were a boy, he would have gone.
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and i'm like, here i am from west virginia, 18. and i go, what? and he goes, he's gay. and i said, oh, okay, i can accept that then. >> reporter: and that very day, sylvia and steven began a warm, lifelong friendship many afternoons spent lingering at this coffee shop. and many memorable evenings. what were those dinners like? >> steven's an amazing cook. >> if you were patient, he was good. he was a phenomenal cook. but you had to be geared to eating at like 10:30 or 11:00, because he was the type of person, if he would talk to you, you would have his undivided attention. >> so by the time we would eat, it's like everybody is drunk. >> reporter: then somewhere in the middle of the '90s, the radio business seemed to tire of steven's huge deep voice and happy style. he got a job in the winery business for a while.
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then went home to care for his ailing father in southern california. and in 2003, when his father died -- >> oh, he was devastated. >> reporter: and then, in the depths of his despair, a window opened to a whole new set of possibilities. steven made a new friend who had just bought a yacht, planned to sail it around the world. would steven like to go along, be the chef? did he know anything about sailing? >> no, nothing at all. >> reporter: what did you think about that? >> he's excited about this, it's a nice diversion, it's something for him to focus on after his dad died. >> i thought it was amazing. i said, i think it's awesome. i was really excited for him. >> reporter: but now, the dream, the voice, the happy-go-lucky charm, all gone. what happened to steven b.? did he fall overboard? in the harsh, white light of the pathology lab, the coroner peered down at the body and made a pronouncement. steven b. did not die of accidental drowning. couldn't have. because there was a bullet in the back of his head.
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>> when we come back, murder? who might have wanted steven b. dead? clue number one, a multimillion dollar inheritance. >> he was bad with money, and he was trying to manage the estate. >> when "who killed the radio star" continues. ah. fire bad! just have to fire roast these tomatoes. do you churn your own butter what? too? this is going to give you a head start on your dinner. that seems easier sure does who are you? [ female announcer ] new progresso recipe starters. five delicious cooking sauces you combine with fresh ingredients to make amazing home-cooked meals. ♪ ambiance [ female announcer ] new progresso recipe starters. your head-start to home cooked.
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there had been so much promise in the air that spring of 2006. >> okay, child of the zodiac, here is your astrological forecast. >> reporter: the second act of a radio man. >> taurus, it's diet time when you're required to wear a red flag on your butt. >> reporter: all that fun on the
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radio was over, yes. but now, he was all set to sail the world, live a dream. and then he winds up floating face-down seven miles off the coast of california's catalina island, a bullet hole in the back of his head. but who wanted him dead? and why? detectives ken clark and robert martindale started by asking his friends. what did you find out about him? >> the thing i noticed about this case, and i give the credit to his friends, was he was surrounded by a group of very close friends that knew a lot about him. these are lifelong friends. >> he was just a great sounding board. somebody i would call if i was angry, if i was frustrated, if i needed advice. >> reporter: he could talk you down or talk you up. >> he could do both, usually at the same time. >> reporter: and recently, steven found a sounding board of his own, a new friend named harvey morrow. >> he was just a quiet, easy-going guy. he came up to him and said i'm such a huge fan of "steven b & the hawk."
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steven thought that was awesome. >> reporter: they soon became fast friends with his wife, debby. >> he was funny, and had such a great love of music and loved to cook. and i thought this man is going to be perfect to go on a boat with us. >> reporter: ah, yes, the boat. harvey had a dock at the l.a. yacht club, a 69-foot beauty. harvey and debbie had big plans for the boat. they talked about it ever since their first date. >> he says, what do you want to do when you retire? and i said, i want to sail all over the world. >> reporter: it was her dream of a lifetime. and now debby actually found the man who shared it. they married at the dawn of the new millennium, right here on the front porch of their new texas home. all that adventure to look forward to. and now harvey had invited steven to go along as chef on their beloved yacht. steven moved aboard, lived with them on the boat.
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but before they set sail, there was work to do. >> he bought this kind of basically old rusty tub, right? >> yeah, yeah. >> reporter: greg le bono helped harvey fix up the old tub. greg fashioned all the stainless steel trim. felt a connection with harvey, too. >> he was a wall street guy, investment banker, rejecting society. >> reporter: a little bit like you? >> yeah, yeah. i'm an outlaw mentality. that's why we bonded, you know? >> reporter: though as greg watched harvey pour money into the boat, the flat screen, the teak, the $50,000 washer/dryer -- >> holy cat, you can buy another boat for 50 grand. >> sure. >> he just wanted the biggest and best he could get, you know? >> reporter: before harvey dropped out, he had been in the investment banking business, had some old stock investments that finally paid off, he said. and so he plowed the money into the boat, along with what a still-working debby was able to contribute.
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he says, don't worry, you know? so what if you have to work another year. >> reporter: he said that? >> yeah. >> reporter: what did you think? >> it's like, okay, yeah. work another year. but by that time, i'm in it. the boat's bought. he's already sunk so much money into it. so it's like, let's just get this done. >> reporter: can't walk away now. >> right. let's get it done. >> reporter: they did not ask steven to kick in a share, which was probably just as well, given how steven was with money. >> the creative side of his mind worked very well, but he was not a good money manager. >> reporter: steven bailey williams, as his friends told the detectives, had lived hand-to-mouth most of his life. he was a radio guy, made good money. and spent it. finance not a strong suit, said his friend, doug johnson. >> he was bad with money, and he was paperwork averse. he would just forget to file his taxes for a few years. >> reporter: how many years would he go? >> his record was eight. >> reporter: but then steven's father died, and the bad money manager was suddenly confronted with a windfall.
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steven inherited nearly $2 million. so now he would have to manage real money. >> he was trying to manage the estate, trying to get things organized, which, for steven, was an almost impossible battle. >> sure. >> reporter: but happily, there was harvey, the ex-banker to help him get the money socked away, a nice, safe tax haven, offshore. >> he said he's helping me with stuff, a retired financial planner and investment banker. >> reporter: just the sort of person i need right now. >> yeah, and boy, this would be a real great help. >> reporter: but that was just business. what really caught steven's imagination was sailing around the world. that is, if the boat ever got finished. >> because every time he turned around, it was a new computer being put in, or new paintings and fireplaces and satellite systems. >> reporter: and two bathrooms and its full kitchen and -- well, never seemed to end. two years passed. three years. steven waiting and waiting. >> he had wanted to go to culinary school. and harvey kept saying, oh, we're going to set sail soon. we're going to set sail soon.
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>> reporter: and then one day, without a word to anyone, steven simply disappeared. coming up, the questions begin. where was steven? and what had happened to his newfound fortune? >> i said, how could this be? i mean, you're a multimillionaire, and you don't have any money? when "dateline" continues. ♪ ♪ i'd like to thank eating right, whole grain, multigrain cheerios! my bowl, my spoons! mom, are those my jeans? [ female announcer ] people who choose more whole grain tend to weigh less than those who don't. multigrain cheerios has whole grain and 110 delicious calories. ...more grains. less you!
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partly cloudy with a slight chance of rain through tomorrow. high today around 85. low tonight, 55. right now, 76. >> reporter: in the spring of 2006, ex-deejay steven b. williams was ready, eager. any day now, he would be setting off to sail around the world. and then suddenly, without saying a word to any of his lifelong friends, he vanished. >> i was worried sick. and we were all kind of having the same angst that he had just dropped off the radar completely. >> reporter: no one had seen steven for weeks. >> i called harvey and said hey, harvey, we're all really concerned about steven. have you seen him? and he was, oh, he's over in hawaii. he went to hawaii. >> reporter: now, that was strange, because harvey told another friend steven went to
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mexico. what did you think? >> i thought steven wouldn't go to mexico at gunpoint. i mean, that was -- it was completely out of character for him. >> reporter: then harvey's friend, greg, the stainless steel guy, said he noticed something strange about steven's usually cluttered cabin. >> it was completely sterile. just -- nothing in it. not one loose object. >> reporter: it was as if steven had never set foot in here. and then those boaters made their shocking discovery, steven face-down in the ocean, a bullet in his head. what was it like to get that news? >> oh, it was awful. i felt like i was in some made-for-tv movie. it's like this can't be happening. none of us could believe it was happening. >> reporter: detectives ken clark and robert martindale morrow's boat, steven's last-known residence and they wanted to talk to harvey. they got a search warrant, brought a whole team to the harbor, seized the yacht. when you first walked in, was it -- >> clean.
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absolutely clean. clean enough where you -- these are my words, eat off the floor. >> reporter: pristine, in fact. and for all the diligent efforts of the forensic people, there was no sign of steven b's existence, no evidence he had ever set foot on that yacht. they did find some high-tech navigational equipment, which they hoped would tell them where the boat had been, but when the expert analyzed it -- >> he said it was never connected, it was never turned on. >> reporter: there was a manual for a handheld garmin gps, but only the manual. >> we went, we searched and we searched and we searched and we just didn't find the gps. >> reporter: nor did they find harvey morrow. he seemed to have disappeared. and that's when they started digging into harvey's background. just who was he, anyway? >> some said he was as wealthy as $12 million and more. >> reporter: though when detectives talked to the neighbors here at the yacht club, at least one of them wasn't quite so sure that harvey was for real.
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>> reporter: she says, me and my husband, we have money, we live on our yacht. i knew when i saw harvey that he was full of it, because no one dresses like gilligan and the skipper when they live on a yacht. and harvey always showed up, these are her words, he showed up in costume. >> reporter: and harvey's employment history? turned out it was not quite as gold-plated as harvey had been letting on, as the detectives discovered. >> i think everything harvey's been involved with throughout his career in banking or stock brokering has gone belly-up. everything he is involved in seems to have some time of fraud involved. one con after the next. i don't think he's ever actually
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had a bona fide job where he's been there for a period of time. >> reporter: which led to an obvious question. what kind of job had harvey been doing managing steven's inheritance? sylvia nolan remembered shortly before steven vanished, somebody broke into the trunk of steven's car where he kept all of his personal paperwork, passport, trust documents, all stolen. >> and i said, please tell me the document between you and harvey wasn't in there. and he goes, what document? and i said, well, you know, for him investing your $2 million. i said you have something documented, right? and he goes, no. and i said, you gave some man you just met a couple years ago $2 million and you've got nothing in writing? >> reporter: she told the detectives, of course. and they took a good look at harvey's boat and soon learned something that probably should have been obvious all along. that fancy dolled-up tub with its pricey power winches, expensive electronics, teak, washer/dryer, fireplace, was paid for, practically every dollar, by the unwitting steven b. that answer turned up in meticulous detail in harvey's own ship's ledger. >> he put, according to his own ledger, $1.7 million to that yacht. so almost the whole amount he took from steven went right back into the yacht. >> reporter: no wonder, said steven's friend sylvia, no wonder the last time they went out to lunch, she had to pick up the check.
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>> he was so embarrassed. and i said, how could this be? i mean, you're a multimillionaire, and you don't have any money. and he said, well, harvey has got it all tied up in these offshore accounts. >> reporter: the detectives discovered harvey morrow had put steven's inheritance money to an offshore bank account in the british virgin islands, just as he said he would. but then he secretly brought it back to the u.s. in small increments and used the money to refurbish the boat. harvey just sucked up all that money. >> all of it. >> reporter: steven, by his own admission, a lousy money manager, trusting, vulnerable after the death of his father was, said detectives, the perfect mark. >> steven was no match for this man at all. >> reporter: nor, apparently, was his wife, debby. >> i was really very much in love with harvey. >> reporter: but as she now began to discover, the man she loved had lied. a house in vail, colorado, which he told her he owned outright actually belonged to someone else. the money she sent him when she
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went back to work vanished. the auto insurance he told her he bought for her didn't exist. and what he said was a $25,000 diamond ring he slipped on her finger when he proposed, a fake. >> it's cubic zirconium. >> reporter: just who was that man she married and believed she loved? >> i don't think harvey even liked me. you know, love is not only blind. in my instance, it's also deaf and dumb. >> reporter: but devastating as those lies were, debby couldn't bring herself to believe harvey could kill. >> i never once thought it would be harvey that would have hurt steven. >> reporter: and, in fact, there was nothing definitive tying harvey to steven's murder. no sign of any violent struggle. not a drop of steven blood anywhere on the ship. if only the detectives could talk to harvey. it turned out, they just missed him. an employee of the yacht club told investigators harvey was standing nearby in plain sight, observing as the cops scoured his boat. but by the time they heard that,
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harvey was long gone. >> from friends and knowing his past, there was some speculation that he would go south, and he had some dealings in belize before. and we believe that's possibly where he was heading. >> reporter: so they put out feelers, belize, the virgin islands, harvey's old haunts down there. but the trail went cold. steven's murder, apparently unsolvable. when we come back, a mysterious stranger surfaces hundreds of miles away. >> the more he would talk, the more intrigued i became. >> could he hold the key to the case? >> did you ever get any money from steven and put it into your account? when "who killed the radio star" continues. [ woman ] ring. ring.
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it was september 2006, when a smooth-talking stranger walked into pete's auto dealership in great falls, montana, and got himself a job as a used car salesman. >> he was quite the character. wasn't your typical car salesman persona. >> reporter: joe was the finance manager at pete's auto. he was at the dealership the day the new guy started. >> he was very sure of himself, to the point of a little bit smug.
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in montana, where you have a lot of down-to-earth meat-and-potatoes people, where they're very friendly towards one another, having somebody with a smug, cocky attitude isn't going to go over very well at times. >> reporter: still, joe was friendly in the way montanans are known for. he gave the guy the benefit of the doubt. one sunday evening, they got to talking. joe says the new salesman told him how he used to be a successful stockbroker, had a beautiful lakefront home in texas. they even looked up his property on google earth. so why on earth, joe asked, would someone leave all of that and come to great falls? >> he had had shared that his wife and a couple of her friends had taken their yacht down to the gulf of mexico, and were going to go sailing for the weekend. during that time, a storm ensued, and the boat was capsized, and his wife and her friends all perished along with the boat. so he had shared that looking at large bodies of water was just more than he can bear and he wanted to get as far away from
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that kind of environment as he could. >> reporter: and who did this tragic past belong to? joe said the wealthy salesman told him his name was harvey morrow. harvey was quite chatty with joe, but one thing harvey didn't know, joe, his attentive audience, was a former police officer. and harvey's amazing story made joe's antennae buzz a little. >> the more he would talk about the loss of his wife and his boat, the more intrigued i became. >> reporter: so on his way home that night, joe took a little detour, drove by the hotel where harvey said he was staying. >> and when i drove by, i didn't find his suv at that location that he said, which i didn't think suspicious at the time. but i still, for whatever reason, drove around to see a few other hotels or motels to see if i found his vehicle. and i located his vehicle at a place called imperial inn. >> reporter: why would harvey
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lie about something as benign as where he was staying? when joe got home that night, he went straight to his office and turned on the computer. >> i entered harvey morrow's name on google, and i was surprised at what i had found. >> reporter: a simple google search, and there it was, a news article describing the murder of disc jockey steven b. williams. >> and harvey morrow was listed as a person of extreme interest. >> reporter: but if harvey really was a fugitive, wouldn't he have changed his name? maybe it was an awful misunderstanding. still, joe called the captain of cascade county sheriff's department in great falls and told him what he learned. and it wasn't long before sergeant clark in california returned to his desk and saw the red light on his phone. there was a message. >> he said, we understand you might be looking for harvey morrow. >> reporter: wow. what did you think when you heard that message?
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>> i was happy. >> reporter: it was another stroke of luck. >> you go to montana, because i'm looking for you down in the british virgin islands. everyone i've talked to in southern california says that's where you like to go, that's where you're going to be. unfortunately for you, again, lucky for me, we got a retired cop that is not going to have a bleeding heart. he's going to have sympathy and empathy and he's going to say, okay, great. but behind the doors, he's going to go run you on the computer and goes, oh, my goodness. >> reporter: sergeants clark and martindale ordered a flight to great falls, montana, to pay the elusive harvey a visit. joe helped arrange a little meeting at the car dealership. >> i told harvey, i said, i need you to go back out there and get this one particular vehicle prepared that one of his customers were coming back to look at it. >> reporter: and when harvey stepped out front, officers from the cascade county sheriff's department were waiting for him. >> we just walked up and said harvey, there's some guys from california who want to talk to you. put your hands behind your back, you're under arrest.
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click click. >> reporter: that was that? >> that was that? >> very civilized. >> very civilized. >> reporter: we should all live like they do in great falls. >> i was impressed. >> reporter: police searched harvey's land rover and discovered guns and ammunition. they took him to the sheriff's department, eager to hear what he had to say. >> yeah, our primary focus is about your vessel. how much money did you put into that boat? >> i don't know. >> what was the estimate? what would you think? >> i have no idea. it was over a period of a long time. >> and so we wanted to key in, how much money did you have? where did the money come from? and things of that nature. he was very vague. it became pretty frustrating. >> did you set up steven's trust fund? >> you lost me. >> did you set up steven's trust fund? >> steven took care of his own stuff. >> did you ever help steven with his finances after his father's estate sold? >> ask steven.
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>> did you ever get any money from steven and put it into your account? >> we passed money back and forth. >> how many times did you receive money from steven? was it more than once? >> i don't remember. >> do you remember how much money you got from steven in total? >> no. no. >> you don't? >> he was very vague. i believe he talked to us thinking he was going to outsmart us in that interview. >> was he trying to prevent you from getting him on the record, pinning him down in a way you could use it against him later? >> i felt that. >> you're asking questions that -- >> but harvey, you're a banker, man. you should know the answers to these questions. >> i don't want to talk any more. >> you're done? >> yeah. i mean, you're not telling me anything. you're -- >> well, we're not finished. i told you i've got a lot to tell you and i do and i will. i will tell you. >> tell it to a lawyer. >> what? >> tell it to a lawyer. >> of course, he was going to need one. harvey was extradited to california, charged with first-degree murder. but for all of the evidence that harvey conned and stole from steven b., evidence of murder was pretty thin, at least
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without another stroke of luck. and that's exactly what they got. a missing piece of the puzzle discovered at last. >> he said you need to look at the data that's in this gps. >> when "dateline" continues. ♪ just put a little bit of yourself ♪ ♪ in everything you do [ female announcer ] add your own ingredients to hamburger helper for a fresh take on a quick, delicious meal. it's one box with hundreds of possibilities. of green giant vegetables it's easy to eat like a giant... ♪
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in september of 2006, doug johnson was walking on the beach, thinking about his friend of 30 years, the murdered one-time deejay, steven b. williams. >> and i see this light on the beach. and i thought, now, what can that be? i dropped my cell phone and it had landed face-up and the panel was lighting up and i walked over to it, and i picked it up and it was ken clark, detective clark, calling to tell me they had arrested harvey. it was a real great sense of relief. it was almost indescribable. >> reporter: which is, perhaps, where the movie version of this story would end. but real life is not quite like that. for all the suspicion of steven's friends, the murder case against harvey morrow was rather weak. no evidence sufficient to prove
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that harvey shot steven and dumped his body in the ocean. >> we were looking for steven's dna on the boat, knowing that his death was caused by a gunshot wound. it was pretty obvious that there should be something that said this is where it was. >> reporter: but there wasn't. no blood, no gun. no significant fingerprints. what they needed, couldn't find, was something that put the two men together on the far side of catalina island, where that current would have caught the body, carried it round to the spot where boaters saw it floating face-down in the water. they hunted everywhere for harvey's gps, but never found it. months went by, harvey sitting in the jail. no luck for the investigation now. and then a phone call. it was the commandant of harvey's yacht club. >> he says, i found a handheld gps in the library of our club. >> reporter: the commandant told them someone in the club had found the gps, wrapped in a napkin and hidden in the back of
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a club library cabinet. >> and he says that cabinet is in a position where harvey morrow always sits and reads all of the time. and he showed us a garmin c-60, which exactly matched in the way it looked, all of the manuals we recovered months earlier on that yacht. >> reporter: here it was, the device they searched for on the boat and couldn't find. >> and he said, you need to look at the data that's in this gps. >> reporter: amazing thing. the gps preserved in its memory in almost inif i national detail, its very last trip which was as follows. may 4th, 2006 around 2:00 p.m., the gps headed out toward catalina island. went to the back side, where it seemed to putter around aimlessly in the middle of the night. then returned back to the dock, 6:00 a.m., may 5th. that little device seemed to pin
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point the place and time of steven's murder. but how could detectives be sure the gps belonged to harvey and was on his boat? and then what do you know? luck again. when harvey bought the gps, he took a friend. >> i was with him in the car when we picked it up. and it was such a cool gps. i got one myself. >> that gps was a pivotal point in the investigation that sealed this whole case together. >> reporter: but though the gps evidence told detectives where harvey's boat was the day steven was killed, how could they be sure harvey and steven were together on the boat at precisely that time? >> electronic data is fascinating nowadays. very fascinating. our cell phones, we can follow that signature -- we were lucky again. >> reporter: lucky this time, because of blackjack. blackjack cell tower, catalina island, where both harvey and steven's cell phones pinged together, just where the gps said they would be, after which steven's cell phone went straight to voicemail, and harvey's sailed right back to his dock the next morning, where he was late for a prearranged fishing trip with his friends.
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they basically said he looked disheveled. he looked as if he had been up all night. he was not himself. >> reporter: one question left. exactly what happened on that fancy boat the last moments of steven b.'s life? doug remembered steven was angry over harvey's handling of his money. >> he had said that he was going to have a come to jesus with harvey. he was going to confront harvey about the money. >> reporter: did steven confront harvey over his lost fortune? is that what led to this? >> we believe they were both on deck and he walked up behind him and just walked up, put the gun in the back of his head and pulled the trigger, which can explain the lack of blood evidence. and he just pushed him over, or he fell over. >> reporter: it took five years and over 30,000 pages of
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evidence to build the case against harvey morrow. most of it hinged on the financial motive. all of it circumstantial. the detectives felt confident about the case they had so carefully assembled, while harvey, all the while, maintained his innocence. and then the very first day of the trial, the bombshell they didn't see coming. coming up -- >> i thought, oh, my god, he's being set free. >> so many years and so many cons. was there about to be another? ♪ i'd like to thank eating right, whole grain, multigrain cheerios! my bowl, my spoons! mom, are those my jeans?
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it had taken five long years to get to this point. harvey morrow was finally being tried for the murder of steven b. police and prosecutors felt confident. that is, until the defense gave its opening statement. then things took an unexpected turn. >> during the opening statement, it was said that the money that harvey got from steven was money that was owed to harvey in a loan that happened many years ago.
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>> reporter: harvey loaned money to steven's father back in the '80s, the defense told the jury. they had a promissory note to prove it. hadn't you encountered that along the way? >> no. it was part of the trust packet. and at this point, the numbers i'm getting from the court were over 33,000 pages of documentation. >> quite frankly, we missed it. >> reporter: they had missed evidence that seemed to show harvey wasn't stealing from steven at all, had no motive to kill him. suddenly, the whole case against harvey, fragile to begin with, seemed in danger of falling apart. and amid doubt about the new evidence, the judge declared a mistrial. >> i thought, oh, my god, he's being set free. >> reporter: but harvey wasn't set free. instead, the state appointed to the case its third prosecutor in five years. >> this was my first case of
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this particular type. >> reporter: prosecutor john mckinney. how do you get ready? >> quickly. >> reporter: his first task, to address that alleged loan between harvey and steven's father, the issue that caused the mistrial. he spoke to steven's best friend and heard this. >> he said, i know it's complete fiction. he said, i know it's fraud. >> reporter: and sure enough, when prosecutor mckinney took a closer look at that loan document, steven's father's signature didn't match. classic sign of a con job, said the prosecutor. even the idea that there had been any sort of relationship between morrow and steven williams' father is nonsense, right? bogus. couldn't have possibly been? >> couldn't have possibly been, and wasn't corroborated by any evidence whatsoever. >> reporter: now he was ready for the new trial. he showed the jury, check by check, how harvey drained steven's accounts, all $1.7 million in just three years to dress up a boat that was never going to sail anywhere. >> the boat wasn't properly
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outfitted for a trip around the world. in fact, it was outfitted in such a way that suggested that it was just going to be a showpiece. it was going to be part of his con, part of the image that he liked to sell to people. >> reporter: then the prosecutor took the jury through the gps and cell phone records, and explained how that evidence put steven and harvey together on the far side of catalina island, after which steven vanished, and harvey told conflicting stories about where he supposedly went. >> i think the most damning evidence in this regard was the fact that despite having a history of calling mr. williams on a telephone over the years that they knew each other, he never called his phone one time after the day the victim went missing. >> reporter: that didn't mean harvey killed steven, the defense said. steven b. was so depressed about losing his career, his father,
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about getting older, that he killed himself. and the medical examiner testified it was possible steven could have shot himself. what was your opinion of the idea he might have committed suicide? >> i think it was incredulous. i don't think he would have done it. >> reporter: still, it was another explanation, and the jury would have to consider it. so now the courtroom waited, and whispered. would harvey take the stand? >> i told the investigators i thought he was going to testify. and they didn't think so. they thought i was crazy. >> reporter: what made you think he would? >> well, he's a con man, and he likes to talk. and con men think they can talk themselves out of any situation. >> reporter: he was right. sure enough, harvey was confident, self-assured, had answers for almost everything. he didn't steal steven's money, he said. >> he came up with a story that no one had heard before his testimony. >> reporter: which was that steven actually owed him his entire inheritance to pay back a
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whole different loan. this second loan was verbal, said harvey, done on a handshake. undocumented, naturally. >> but mr. morrow thought he could sell it. he is a con man and he told it with a straight face. >> reporter: would jurors believe him? steven's friend, sylvia, worried. >> i was thinking, oh, my gosh, what if he cons these people the way he conned steven? >> reporter: and perhaps there was reason to worry. the jury stayed out for almost two full days. >> it was a long couple days, i'll tell you that. >> reporter: and then, finally. >> we, the jury, in the above-entitled action find the defendant, harvey morrow, guilty of the crime of willful, deliberate and premeditated first-degree murder of steven b. williams. >> oh, my gosh, we were all holding hands. and when they read it, we were all crying and so grateful. >> reporter: and steven's many friends poured into the courtroom the day harvey was sentenced. doug johnson read a statement for all of them, things he had to say to harvey.
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>> for years, you ate his food, lived and worked on what he thought was a common goal, the whole time stealing from him, and ultimately taking what was most precious, his life. you worship a false god, the god of arrogance, ego and greed. today, our nightmare ends. today, yours really begins. >> reporter: harvey was sentenced to life without parole. after which his now ex-wife debby invited us down to the pier, where she took harvey's fake engagement ring and the other costume jewelry he had given her and -- >> i threw them into the water as a tribute to steven. >> reporter: and his friends? >> steven was a part of my family. he's part of the family you get to pick.
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i can open a great bottle of wine and sit there and think about steven. the pain fades, the memories are sustained, and that's the part that, you know, i'll just keep with me forever. >> the only way that i can kind of deal with it is i knew that he was eventually going to get on a boat and sail around the world. so i just kind of think of him out there. you know, he's out there somewhere. >> reporter: out there like the happy-go-lucky free spirit on the radio. >> that's a good one. >> reporter: the man they called steven b. >> have a good weekend. bye! that's all for now. i'm lester holt. thanks for joining us. you're going to go to war, is that what you want to do? >> the gloves come off. falling deeper in debt. the muse is next.